The much-hyped, Network Computer Reference Profile (NCRP), first introduced last May and dormant since then, has finally been revved with the addition of support for smart cards. IBM Corp, Netscape Communications Corp, Sun Microsystems Inc and Oracle Corp’s Network Computer Inc subsidiary – four of the original five NCRP partners – got together yesterday to trumpet an OpenCard Framework (CI No 3,128). The fifth NCRP member, Apple Computer Corp couldn’t make it yesterday, but would eventually, probably back the initiative, according to NCI. But Apple’s absence is largely an irrelevance. What isn’t however, is the absence of Hewlett-Packard Co, Microsoft Corp, or any smart card vendors directly supporting the move, although Gemplus SA was involved in drawing it up. The first two of those is easy to figure: neither want to be seen actively supporting network computers in any way, although HP is now shipping a smart card package as part of its Praesidium security framework, with cards manufactured by Gemplus (CI No 3,118). The group wasn’t able to say yesterday whether its NC card framework was compatible with HP’s. The framework is based around something called Public Key Cryptography Standard-11 (PKCS-11), together with links to Sun’s Java Card API and other, unspecified smart card APIs. OpenCard will be supported by NCI’s NC Access, Netscape Communicator, Lotus’ NC Desktop and Sun’s JavaStation software environment. But all four companies would only commit to support before the year- end. HP’s marketing director for security and internet solutions Feisal Mosleh pointed to the lack of product in the announcement and said that anything Gemplus adopts become a de facto standard, He said the announcement looks like an anti-Microsoft game. The smart cards that will eventually be used with the NCs are for storing personal information about the users, not for electronic commerce. The idea is that a user could be anywhere in the world, but could put the card into a compatible NC and pull down his or her own users interface and applications. The group were not saying what might be next for the NCRP, though JavaSoft’s chief technology officer did acknowledge that mobile devices were a priority. As far as further standardization of NCRP goes, Mitchell said the Open Group was chosen in part because if its ability to do testing and certification, but nothing has been finalized with that yet as far as NCRP- compatibility tests are concerned. A white paper and a Java API reference documentation will be up at https://www.nc.com/opencard from today.